How Republicans came to love assault rifles

A twitter thread from Brad DeLong

I found myself casting my memory back to the early days of the Clinton administration, when I was carrying spears for the Lloyd Bentsen Treasury. We were trying to construct a coalition for a "crime bill"—tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime. Bob Dole in the Senate… 1/

… and Bob Michel in the House declared that we would get no help from Republicans: that they would try to keep us to zero Republican votes. The point, they said, was that they had to try their best to make Clinton look like a failure. If that meant that none of… 2/

…America's problems would be addressed unless they could be made to look like a Clinton surrender to Republicans, that was fine. This was politics, not a tea party. And, anyway, Clinton was not legitimate: a minority president, who had squeaked in only because Ross… 3/

…Perot had blown up the 1992 race.

Treasury was heavily involved. We were, after all, "the money". And the Bureau of ATF was a pretty big component of federal law enforcement. So we went on a listening tour, asking people over and over again what they thought would… 4/

…actually reduce crime, and what they thought would actually reduce the causes of crime.

One thing that became clear, from rural sheriffs and deputies and big-city police departments alike, was that the cops were starting to get scared. They were getting scared that… 5/

…they were going to run into bad guys with military-grade amounts of automatic firepower, and get killed. There was unified buy-in from law enforcement nationwide that, while people really did disagree about "gun control", an assault weapons ban made sense.

We added… 6/

… it to the bill, and we held enough of the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate to the idea to to push the Clinton crime bill, with all of its constructive and destructive elements, across the finish line.

And then Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House… 7/

…And Gingrich saw the assault weapons ban as a point of Democratic political vulnerability—as something that he could unify the Republican Party around as an unwarranted and authoritarian violation of Americans' rights. And he made it so.

And the Republicans all… 8/

…followed this pied piper into full-throated support of an AR-15 in the hands of every emotionally fragile young male with suicidal power fantasies who could up with $1000, or steal one from a relative who thought it was "protection".

And the Republicans in the… 9/

…nation's police followed him: an assault-weapons ban was no longer something that police chiefs and union leaders would say made good sense—if they were Republicans. Instead, it was every American's natural right to own one. And, they claimed, the police welcomed "good… 10/

…guys with guns" on the street.

And now all the Fox News-watching police nationwide, including those in Uvalde County, are absolutely terrified of what the Republican Party of Gingrich, Hastert, Boehner, Ryan, McCarthy, Dole, Lott, Frist, McConnell, W. Bush, McCain…

… Romney, and Trump have created.

And here we are. 12/END

Originally tweeted by Brad DeLong 🖖 (@delong) on May 27, 2022.

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